All the Arthurian Names Dropped in Netflix's 'Cursed,' Explained
A helpful guide to the many legendary characters on the new fantasy series.
This piece contains minor (and a couple major) spoilers for Netflix's Cursed.
There's no plot mythology more complex or contradictory than that of the legend of Arthur, the once and future King of the Britons. The fictional figure has transcended the oral storytelling tradition to become one of the most recognizable pop-culture figures in the Western world. (Even the Transformers movies would have us believe he was a real person.) But even with countless interpretations of Arthur's origins, his kingdom, and his sword Excalibur -- even in the Arthurian canon, there are many competing versions of the legend -- Netflix has added a fresh take with Cursed, an action-fantasy show set that focuses on a new wielder of the sword of power before Arthur even considered sitting on a throne.
Since Arthurian myth is a bit of a convoluted legend soup, and Cursed is another remix on a story that has already been remixed a hundred times over, below is a broad breakdown of every name dropped in the show that's a reference to a classic Arthurian character. There are a few spoilers and name reveals towards the end, so if you haven't watched all the way to the finale yet, proceed with caution.
NimuePlayed by: Katherine Langford
In Cursed, Nimue is the protagonist, the wielder of the sword of power even before Arthur, but in the legend, she's more of a side character -- though still the axis on which most of the story turns. You probably know Nimue as the Lady of the Lake, a mysterious female figure who's in charge of who gets to wield Excalibur and when, and a powerful sorceress in her own right. When King Arthur is mortally wounded and dying, he entrusts the sword to one of his Knights of the Round Table, telling him to go throw it into the lake surrounding the mystical land of Avalon. The Lady of the Lake's hand catches the sword and brings it beneath the waves, and later brings Arthur to Avalon as well, to preserve him until he can make his return to Britain. In Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, which is nowadays the most famous and all-encompassing Arthurian text that a lot of modern interpretations are based off of, Nimue ends up trapping Merlin under a rock after he falls in love with her and won't leave her alone, and she becomes Arthur's chief magical advisor instead. The relationship between Nimue and Merlin in Cursed is, without spoiling things, a little bit different, and luckily no one's trapping anyone under any rocks in the show quite yet.
ArthurPlayed by: Devon Terrell
You probably already know who this is, but for the sake of completism, the Arthur in the show is, yes, the future King of the Britons we know and love. Cursed introduces Arthur as a mercenary fighter, basically a nobody, who meets Nimue by chance and agrees to fight for her in her quest to save her country from invading forces and false kings. Arthur's history has many interpretations: he was for sure a native Briton who protected his kingdom against the invading Saxons, as well as dark magical forces; he was advised by the powerful magician Merlin; he drew the sword Excalibur out of a stone, proving himself the worthy King, he's the somewhat-legitimate son of Uther Pendragon and Igraine, the wife of Uther's enemy Gorlois; and he and his Knights of the Round Table (who number anywhere from two to twelve to 150, depending on who you ask) rode around the countryside defending their people from various enemies and searching for the Holy Grail.
MerlinPlayed by: Gustaf Skarsgård
Merlin is, of course, the powerful wizard who helped Arthur along the way to claiming his throne, using magic and sometimes plain trickery and cleverness to achieve his plans. In some versions, he's a cambion, the unholy son of a mortal woman and an incubus, which would explain some of his innate power. His one weakness seems to be attractive, dangerous women (such as Nimue and Morgan le Fay), which nearly always, no matter who's telling the story, leads to his downfall. Merlin was the one who disguised Uther as Gorlois so he could sleep with Lady Igraine and father Arthur, knowing that the product of this otherwise inadvisable tryst would be the savior of their country. Cursed offers an interesting interpretation of Merlin as a once-powerful druid sorcerer, who once wielded the sword of power but has since lost most of his ability to do magic.
Uther PendragonPlayed by: Sebastian Armesto
Uther is a complex, morally gray character in Arthurian myth, and is mostly delegated to the role of absent father figure. Before Arthur, Uther and his brother Aurelius defeat Vortigern, king of the Saxons in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, and later helps the wizard Merlin transport the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland into Britain, so that's how those got there, in case you were wondering. Uther and Igraine's illegitimate conception of Arthur is a theme throughout the myth, and in a way dooms Arthur, as he later seals his doom by fathering his future enemy Mordred with his half-sister Morgana. Whoops. The Uther in Cursed is a king whose kingdom kinda hates him, and who has been enabling the violent Red Paladins to spread their religious fanaticism all over Britain, declaring war on the magical Fey creatures.
MorganaPlayed by: Shalom Brune-Franklin
Known as Morgana in Cursed, and as Morgan le Fay in most popular Arthurian retellings, Morgana is the sister (sometimes half-sister) of Arthur, often blessed with supernatural powers and known as a sorceress at least as powerful as the wizard Merlin. Morgan le Fay is one of the most fascinating characters of Arthurian legend, a multifaceted representation of humanity's capacity for both good and evil. Depending on the version you look at, she's either yet another of King Arthur's trusted advisors, or a villain herself, plotting against Arthur and eventually setting their son Mordred against him. In Cursed, she's Arthur's sister who lives as a nun in a nearby convent (going by the name Sister Igraine), and later receives a dark missive from a supernatural creature, secretly telling her that she's destined to be the most powerful magic user in Britain.
BorsPlayed by: Sean Gilder
Bors is introduced in Cursed as another mercenary soldier whom Arthur reports to, and is generally, in his few scenes, a pretty mean, antagonistic dude. In the legend, Bors is two people: King Bors and his son, Sir Bors, who becomes one of Arthur's most trusted Round table knights -- even eventually finding the Holy Grail. He's portrayed as one of the Round Table's most virtuous members: in one story, he refuses to break his vow of celibacy even when a group of attractive women threaten to commit suicide if he doesn't sleep with them (the women turn out to be demons, so, good for Bors). It's not clear whether this Bors will have a larger role in further seasons of Cursed, but so far, he's got a long way to go before he becomes worthy of the mysteries of the Grail.
Pellam "the Fisherman"Played by: Youssef Kerkour
Introduced as simply, "the Fisherman" in Cursed, Pellam is a somewhat gross-looking dude intent on hunting down and killing Merlin in the first season's later episodes. Anything having to do with fishing is almost definitely a reference to the Fisher King of Arthurian myth, a wounded monarch whose lands have been poisoned and who holds the secret of the location of the Grail, if you're virtuous enough to deserve it.
Sir EctorPlayed by: Peter Guinness
Sir Ector is one of the most faithful interpretations of an Arthurian character in Cursed: portrayed as a powerful lord with a large estate, Sir Ector is the adoptive father of Arthur (and, later, the future father of Round Table knight Sir Kay). Ector receives Arthur from Merlin, who puts him under Ector's protection and Ector raises Arthur without telling him of his royal origins.
GawainPlayed by: Matt Stokoe
In a somewhat confusing turn of events, Sir Gawain and "the Green Knight" are actually the same character in Cursed. Gawain is one of Nimue's closest, oldest friends, having been given the epithet "Green Knight" for his green armor and helmet. If you know of Gawain, you probably know him from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a medieval romance that tells the story of Gawain's run-in with a monstrous Green Knight, who's been walking around challenging anyone to strike a blow and he'll vow to return it in a year and a day. When Gawain beheads the Green Knight, thinking that'll be the end of things, the knight picks up his head and tells Gawain that he'll see him in a year and a day, thanks very much. Yikes. If you've gotten to the finale (and a big fat spoiler warning if you haven't) Nimue uses her magic to save Gawain after he's tortured by the evil Red Paladins, and the final shot of him you see is his body being encased by all kinds of greenery. I predict he'll probably look a teensy bit different when we see him again.
PercivalPlayed by: Billy Jenkins
This entry and the last are big spoilery character reveals, so get outta here if you haven't seen the last episode yet! Nimue's little friend Squirrel, who survived the sacking of their village and has joined the Fey cause against the Red Paladins is revealed to actually bear the name Percival -- the name of one of Arthur's most famous Round Table knights and the original hero of the quest for the Holy Grail.
LancelotPlayed by: Daniel Sharman
The character we've known only as "the weeping monk" this whole time actually has a name! The creepy cloaked swordsman with the weird eye makeup at the right hand of Father Carden, the leader of the Red Paladins, is none other than Sir Lancelot, one of Arthur's most loyal knights (and eventually his rival for the affections of Lady Guinevere). He's usually depicted as Arthur's best friend, the best fighter of, like, all time, and his adulterous affair with Guinevere ends up ripping the kingdom apart in civil war.
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